Funny how a snowmobile or ATV hitting an immovable object takes only a fraction of a second, but the sound of smashing alloy and plastic reverberates in my head for eternity. And it’s a sound that, try as I do, cannot be purged from my memory. I’ve suffered enough of these impacts to create a short, painful soundtrack of my inglorious moments as a snowmobiler.
It begins with a charming little intro, from the time I was riding an Indy 400 between two railroad tracks that, unbeknownst to me, began to merge with a pole near the intersection. In a split second, I had punched the nose of the sled far enough into the pole to create a mild explosion of fiberglass, as well as wedging the sled between the rail tracks. I will never forget the sound, or the Herculean effort required to pull the sled backwards, out of its wedgie.
Then there was the time I was on a Yamaha Phazer. Pretending to be Ricky-Racer-meets-Mr. Style, I was gracefully throttle-steering my way through a winding section of trail. I was so cool! In one fateful corner, with the back of the sled pitched mildly sideways, I looked back to admire the roost of snow. The reward for that bit of vanity was a sharp veer into the trees followed by more shards of plastic. And another piece of ear-piercing music.
On another ride, I had the existential experience of watching my friend Steve attempt to pass me by taking a route off the trail and through the powder. He was riding an Arctic Cat Jag on loan to the magazine staff that I was a member of. And when he unearthed the snow-covered tree that tore off the upper and lower A-arm of the sled (and wrecked the bulkhead), I heard both the horrible crunch AND what I anticipated would be a severe tongue lashing by my boss upon hearing the news.
Add to these sounds the crescendo of several windshield-crushing rollovers and a few hateful bumper-compacting cartwheels, and something of a truly sad song plays as the soundtrack to my life as a snowmobiler, conjuring painful memories the same way an old love song reminds you of the hot babe who broke up with you in 8th grade.
Strange as it sounds, for me these sounds are worse than the effort required fixing the broken stuff. I’ve long since forgotten about money I spent on parts, the hours of applying and sanding fiberglass, and the sore hands from drilling and riveting new bulkheads. But I can still hear the horrible crunch of carnage.
In this week’s Trailside Chatter, I ask if you’ve ever heard the sound of a snowmobile crashing? Do you know the crunch of splintering fiberglass or shattering plastic? What’s worse, the bark or the bite?